Monday, March 28, 2011

Let's Get the Story Right on Florida's Pretrial Relase Programs

In the March 26, 2011 edition of the Orlando Sentinel, the headline read, “State leaders may steer more inmates to local jails.” The article focused on two bills in the Florida Legislature that would limit eligibility for government-funded release from jail. Also stated in the article was that the, “fight over the county programs centers on certain inmates considered minimal risks — people arrested on first-time drunken driving or minor theft charges and other nonviolent crimes.”

While some defendants released have committed first-time, non-violent offenses, this is not always the case as opponents of limiting such release would have the public believe.

For example, in Orange County, the Board of County Commissioners funds a taxpayer-financed pretrial services program to the tune of approximately $1.6 million. The Sentinel article correctly stated that Orange County’s program has been scrutinized by the bail bond industry.

We would like to tell you why.

The bail industry knows that dangerous and potentially dangerous defendants are being released into the Orange County pretrial services unit every day.  Below are examples of offenses defendants have committed in Orange County and who have been released from jail with your tax dollars.

We don’t believe the victims of these crimes would deem them to be “minimal” or would like the fact that their hard earned tax dollars let the alleged perpetrator back on the street free of charge with no accountability for showing up in court:
  • Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon
  • Aggravated battery
  • Aggravated battery on a pregnant person
  • Aggravated battery w/great bodily harm
  • Aggravated assault with a deadly weapon
  • False imprisonment
  • Battery
  • Battery domestic violence
  • Battery domestic violence by strangulation
  • Violation of domestic violence injunction
  • Tampering with witness to hinder communication to law enforcement
  • Battery dating violence
  • Battery by strangulation/dating violence
  • Battery on law enforcement officer
  • Intentional threat to do violence
  • Carrying concealed firearm
  • Weapons – carrying simulated firearm
  • Possess concealed weapon/firearm by convicted felon
  • Burglary of occupied dwelling/conveyance
  • Burglary to unoccupied structure/conveyance
  • Possession of burglary tools with intent to use
  • Robbery/subsequent force with deadly weapon
  • Grand theft 3rd degree motor vehicle
  • Grand theft 3rd degree
  • Grand theft 2nd degree
  • Racketeering
  • Dealing in stolen property
  • Driving under the influence >.15 and >.20 balance; with property damage/personal injury; with minor in vehicle
  • Driving with license revoked as habitual offender
  • Possession of cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, oxycodone, carisoprodal, ecstasy
  • Sale/delivery of cocaine
  • Possession of controlled substances
  • Possession of a controlled substance with a weapon
  • Trafficking in oxycodone >4, <14 grams
  • Indecent exposure
  • Retail theft >$300 subsequent offense
  • Trespass in structure or conveyance
  • Aggravated fleeing/eluding law enforcement
  • Child neglect/abuse
Do you believe this lengthy list of crimes pose minimal risks to the public? Well opponents of limiting free taxpayer release from jail do.

But let’s look a little further at just a few of the defendants who committed these offenses and their criminal history. Just because one offense may be considered to be non-violent, you must take the offense in context with someone’s criminal history when deciding the appropriate release mechanism. Obviously this was not done with the below defendants.

Arthur Leakes
Arrested for burglary to an unoccupied structure; possession of burglary tools with intent to use; trespass in occupied structure; petit theft and released on the taxpayers’ dime. Criminal history includes:
  • 12/1990: controlled substance offense
  • 05/1991: theft; possession of drug paraphernalia
  • 09/1991: controlled substance offense (2 counts)
  • 09/1992: possession of drug paraphernalia
  • 10/1992: controlled substance offense; possession of drug paraphernalia
  • 09/1993: theft
  • 01/1995: controlled substance offense; violation of probation for a controlled substance offense
  • 11/1995: escape
  • 12/1995: burglary of a structure; petit theft; resisting law enforcement without violence
  • 03/1996: controlled substance offense; obtaining property by worthless check (2 counts)
  • 06/1996: obtaining property by worthless check (2 counts)
  • 08/1997: delivery of counterfeit controlled substance; possession of drug paraphernalia
  • 02/1998: sale of counterfeit substance
  • 09/2002: possession of controlled substance and drug paraphernalia
  • 09/2003: driving with license suspended/revoked with knowledge
  • 04/2005: theft; cheating; scheme to defraud
  • 10/2007: possession of a controlled substance
  • 8 traffic offenses with fines
Domingo Rivera
Arrested for burglary to an unoccupied structure or conveyance; trespass in unoccupied structure; petit theft and released on the taxpayers’ dime. Criminal history includes:
  • 03/2001: illegal purchase/sale/offer for alcohol
  • 05/2001: battery
  • 08/2001: aggravated battery with great bodily harm; aggravated assault with deadly weapon; theft
  • 07/2002: petit theft
  • 09/2003: battery (2 counts)
  • 08/2004: burglary; resisting law enforcement without violence; criminal mischief
  • 06/2006: trespass in structure or conveyance
  • 02/2008: carrying a concealed weapon
  • 08/2008: burglary; petit theft; criminal mischief
  • 03/2009: possession of cannabis <20 grams
  • 07/2009: burglary of a conveyance; criminal mischief; petit theft
  • 10/2010: trespass on property or conveyance
Jeffrey E. Fork
Arrested for possession of oxycontin and xanax; possession of drug paraphernalia (2 counts) and released on the taxpayers’ dime. Criminal history includes:
  • 01/1993: driving with no valid driver’s license
  • 01/1996: possession of a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia
  • 12/1996: disorderly intoxication and disorderly conduct
  • 03/1999: driving under the influence
  • 06/1999: possession of a controlled substance
  • 16 traffic offenses
Lawrence Corns
Arrested for possession of cannabis <20 grams and released on the taxpayers’ dime. Criminal history includes:
  • 09/1995: burglary of a dwelling with assault or battery; aggravated battery with a deadly weapon; resisting law enforcement with violence
  • 08/2001: possession of drug paraphernalia
  • 06/2004: disorderly conduct
  • 04/2006: driving under the influence
  • 07/2006: reckless driving
  • 08/2007: battery
  • 09/2008: battery/one prior battery
  • 04/2010: battery/prior battery
Michael A. Graham
Arrested for driving under the influence and released on the taxpayers’ dime. Criminal history includes:
  • 11/2002: lewd and lascivious act in presence of child (4 counts)
  • 09/2003: exposure of sexual organs; lewd and lascivious exhibition by person >17 years; sell/manufacture/deliver controlled substance; possession of controlled substance; possession of drug paraphernalia
  • 11/2010: robbery with a firearm; carjacking; aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; resisting law enforcement officer without violence
Jerry Wayne Casey
Arrested for indecent exposure and released on the taxpayers’ dime. Criminal history includes:
  • 09/1987: driving under the influence
  • 05/1996: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; petit theft
  • 07/1998: theft
  • 03/1999: theft
  • 11/2000: resisting law enforcement without violence
  • 05/2003: burglary of conveyance
  • 11/2003: burglary of a dwelling; criminal mischief
  • 12/2003: trespass
  • 01/2005: dealing/trafficking in stolen property; petit theft
  • 09/2007: trespass after warning
  • 06/2008: criminal mischief/damage property
  • 05/2009: trespass; disorderly intoxication
  • 10/2010: illegal purchase/sale/offer for alcohol
Ronald E. Giddens
Arrested for trespass on property after warning and released on the taxpayers’ dime. Criminal history includes:
  • 10/1989: theft; possession of alcohol by person <21 years; resisting law enforcement without violence
  • 07/1994: battery
  • 08/1994: trespass
  • 05/1996: illegal purchase/sale/offer for alcohol
  • 11/2003: aggravated battery/great bodily harm
  • 01/2005: resisting law enforcement without violence
  • 07/2005: disorderly intoxication; resisting law enforcement without violence
  • 08/2005: disorderly intoxication
  • 04/2009: disorderly intoxication
Thomas P. Costa
Arrested for the following offenses and released on the taxpayer’s dime:
  • R.I.C.O.
  • Grand theft 2nd degree $20,000 or more (2 counts)
  • Theft (22 counts)
  • False/fraudulent insurance claims (4 counts)
  • Obtain property by fraud >$300 (13 counts)
  • Acting as public insurance adjuster without a license (2 counts)
Orange County and the other 27 counties in Florida that have government-funded pretrial release programs continue to claim that jail populations will rise without a program despite an analysis by the Legislature’s oversight arm that proves otherwise. In fact, the analysis of counties with and counties without a pretrial release program irrefutably showed that “there appears to be no correlation between counties’ occupancy rate and whether or not they have a program.”

Yet as quoted in the article, the Orange County jail insists that any attempt to limit the type of defendants released into their program, “could mean an average of 274 more inmates staying in its jail each day.” Where is the proof to show this? Under the bills, defendants who can afford bail will pay bail and will be released. Those who are determined to be indigent will continue to be released under a pretrial release program.  Where is the bottle necking?

An official with Orange County was quoted as saying, “extra costs are extra costs.” What about the cost to taxpayers to release defendants who are able to post their own bail? What about the extra cost to the taxpayers’ for law enforcement to find a defendant who has failed to appear? What about the lost time law enforcement spends trying to find defendants who have failed to appear instead of focusing on crime and prevention?

What about the fact that the 75 percent of Florida voters said in a recent Mason-Dixon poll that if a criminal defendant can afford to pay their own bail for release from jail they should not be allowed to be released using tax dollars?

It is a weak argument to keep trying to convince the voters that bail bondsmen don’t care about public safety and only want to see more money put in their pockets. We live and work in our communities; our children go to school and play on our streets; we work hard to run a small business and pay our taxes; we want our communities safe and we want those who commit a crime to be accountable for their own release if able to do so.  We know our industry is the most effective and efficient form of pretrial release.  We know we are financially and physically responsible for defendants we release on bail.  Not the taxpayers.

Support limiting government-funded release from jail.  It is the right thing to do.

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